Study Guide

Kew Gardens Modernization

By Virginia Woolf

Modernization

"Heaven was known to the ancients as Thessaly, William, and now, with this war, the spirit matter is rolling between the hills like thunder." (12)

The old man's reference to war reminds us that the horrors of modern warfare are not far away from this idyllic scene. The garden may feel like a safe haven, but the troubles of the modern world loom nearby. Why do you think Woolf make sure to include this detail? Even then, why does she include it only as a minor detail? 

"You have a small electric battery and a piece of rubber to insulate the wire—isolate?—insulate?—well, we'll skip the details, no good going into details that wouldn't be understood—and in short the little machine stands in any convenient position by the head of the bed, we will say, on a neat mahogany stand." (13)

The old man describes a contraption with which he thinks he will be able to communicate with the dead. Good luck, old man. The mention of this device reminds readers that the story is set in an age of exciting industrial and technological innovation, even if some of them (like this one) seem a little silly. 

</em>All the time the motor omnibuses were turning their wheels and changing their gear; like a vast nest of Chinese boxes all of wrought steel turning ceaselessly one within another the city murmured. (29)

The gardens are situated in a world of machinery and industrial production. Even amidst the flowers, we still can't completely escape from modern society. Do you think this detail casts an ominous note? Why would Woolf end with this particular allusion to the city? 

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